Volunteers of America Northern Rockies (VOA) serves the most vulnerable people in our communities. Four weeks ago the organization began planning for contingencies and protocols within its programs in an effort to stay ahead of this dynamically changing global crisis. VOA staff and volunteers are committed to keeping all of its critical services operational, many of which serve as a safety net for those without shelter, food or healthcare support.
“Each night there are more than 500 people in our residential programs and hundreds of others in our homeless outreach programs. Their care, protection, and wellbeing are the reasons VOA exists and the reason our staff is so passionate about serving them during difficult times,” explained Jeff Holsinger, CEO of Volunteers of America Northern Rockies. “Most of the children, families, and Veterans we serve do not have the resources necessary to ensure their basic needs are being met. Our 17 offices across Montana, Wyoming and Western South Dakota remain committed to supporting those in need now more than ever.”
The Executive Team within VOA is meeting daily to stay informed through reliable sources of information such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Action plans have been put in place for each program that strives to ensure the safety of its clients, team members, and communities. Some of the steps taken include the following:
- Sheridan, WY Empty Bowl Event has been rescheduled for Thursday, August 13, 2020.
- All gatherings of more than 10 individuals have been canceled or adjusted to be small groups (this includes bible studies, chapel services, AA/NA meetings that included community members, senior gatherings and staff meetings)
- Program tours have been canceled until further notice
- Residential client engagement with external activities has been limited
- Client, staff, essential volunteers and vendors serving residential programs are required to submit to temperature screening.
- All new program referrals are screened for COVID-19
- A COVID Operations Taskforce has been established and meets daily
- Mommy’s Closet in Rapid City, SD is meeting the unique needs of single mothers through prepackaged boxes and scheduled case management.
- Where possible case management is being completed via phone rather than bringing vulnerable populations to VOA offices
- Plans are in place for several levels of crisis response
Volunteers of America are more concerned than ever for the well being of those they have been called to serve. Fragile seniors, homeless veterans, neglected youth, those living in addiction and families in need shelter are often disconnected from loved ones and support systems. In many cases, VOA is their only family.
“I invite you to do one more important thing each day,” said Jeff Holsinger, “please keep our vulnerable neighbors in your prayers. Our country was founded on the strength of neighbors helping neighbors.”